Rail buggies or dune buggies are a long-standing favourite toy of desert goers. Used to drive over dunes, rough or muddy terrain and rocky landscapes, rail buggies are light and fast stripped down versions of cars that consist of nothing more than the frame, tires, engine, steering wheel and a couple of seats. Cheap to operate and maintain, rail buggies consist of 2 different configurations: mid engine and front engine buggies. Mid engine buggies are by far the more popular configuration with the engine mounted behind the driver and connected directly to the rear axle. This configuration adds overall buggy clearance, increases horsepower, and it is a bit safer than a front engine buggy. Front engine buggies have their engines mounted in front of the driver like a normal car set-up with a driveshaft connecting the engine to the rear axle. Front engine buggies are easier to build in some ways than their rear engine counterparts and offer the added bonus of a better centre of gravity. Less traction can be had due to less weight being on the rear wheels, but this is a minor setback compared to the ease of construction. This article will teach you how to build your own front engine rail buggy from any old front engine car you have available.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Old front engine car
- Cutting torch
- Handheld grinder
- Ratchet set
- Set of rough tires
- Razor blade
Begin by purchasing or locating an old (but able to run!) car. This will serve as the base for your buggy. Remove all of the glass from the car by sliding a razorblade knife along the perimeter of the windows and windshield and lifting the glass free from its mouldings.
Next remove all of the doors and body panels. The body panels are simply sheet metal attached with bolts, so search along the edge of each panel and use the ratchet set to remove each panel.
Remove the boot lid and the bonnet as well. When you have removed all of the sheet metal from the car, you should be left with a frame and the internal workings of the car.
Pull the carpet and plastics out of the inside of the car. Leave nothing but the seats in place. It should be possible to remove all of the interior of the car with the razor blade and a bit of elbow grease.
If there are back seats, use the ratchet set to unbolt them from the frame and remove them. You now should have what constitutes the "buggy" with the front engine design.
Remove the street tires that were mounted to the old car and mount the rough or "mud" tires. Various other modifications can be made to improve the performance, suspension and safety of this design, but this is your basic stripped down rail buggy ready for some fun on the trails.
Tips and warnings
- One particular car type that is used a lot for rail buggies is the Volkswagon Beetle, however these are normally a mid-engine cars that require a few modifications to run as a front engine design.
- It might be hard to fit rough tires under the fender wells of a small car without a lift kit, so do not be too aggressive on tire size at first.
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